Saves the Day
From time to time, the space that we devote to a story in print just doesn't do the subject justice. Such is the case with Drew Bixby's piece this week focusing on Daytrotter.com, which is why we've opted to post the rest of his interview here in its entirety.
When I first heard about the site sometime last fall, the cynic in me reared its ugly head. "Great!" I thought. "This is exactly what we all need -- another batch of sanctimonious Pitchdork also-rans spouting off about the music we should be listening to. For chrissakes, isn't the blogosphere grossly oversaturated enough already?"
Ultimately, though, the site has proven to be the perfect marriage of music, art and literature. With Daytrotter.com Moeller has already enhanced the way we experience music, and from the sounds of it, his vision for the site is nowhere near complete.
Anyhow, in the words of Paul Harvey, here is the rest of the story. -- Dave Herrera
Westword: What's the hype surrounding Daytrotter been like so far?
Sean Moeller: At this point, we haven't really had too much fanfare. USA Today wrote about us the other day. We've had a couple other stories out and about. Pitchfork writes about us quite often. Wired magazine flew a photographer in and did a huge session with us. That's coming out in February. HARP magazine is working on a piece. We just got a call from MTV yesterday, which is kind of weird. We just think there's so many big things on the horizon. But maybe I'm being na�ve and stupid.
Has national-media attention made it any easier to recruit musicians?
The amount of emails and the interest in people wanting to come in this spring and summer is like blowing me away. I don't want to turn anybody down, but I don't know how we can record everyone who wants to come. It's really awesome and it's big-time people and people that I would drive a long way to see play. It says a lot about what we've established.
When you first started Daytrotter, what did you say to bands and musicians to convince them that a pit stop in the Quad Cities was going to be worth their time?
They get to choose exactly how they want to be heard. They get to pick the four songs. They make their own little greeting card. To me, that's really cool. It's really exciting to hear what they choose to do -- how they choose to present themselves to people. With a recorded album, you have so many months to work on it. It's a representation of who you are, but it's really layered up. To have them come in and only have two hours, it's like, 'All right, show us what you've got.'
What about for you? What's in it for you?
Every time we've done a session, I've come away kind of amazed at something about it. You see, these bands really showing who they are, not just as a band, as people. To me, it's just kind of fascinating. I get to meet these people, and we form really nice relationships. I get to kind of get a better glimpse into them. As a writer, it's really valuable to me to get to know these people and not just do a fifteen-minute cold call on the phone to interview them. I just feel like I can be a better writer doing it that way, and they can be more likeable as a band. They can really just be pure. I think that's really awesome, and I think a lot of our readers and the people who are excited about what we're doing right now kind of feel that. There's an intimacy to it that I think people are really latching on to.
Do you imagine Daytrotter ever becoming your full-time job? Would that necessarily mean more ads?
We don't want the site to be bogged down with ads, but people need to understand that the advertising is going to have to fund our salaries some day, and all that's going to do is allow us to give people more free awesome music and the sessions and things they really want to hear. If that means we have to kind of ring the phone of Coke and get them to buy a banner ad for a lot of money or whatever to fund that, we're just going to take that money and bring in more great bands. Plus, we want to get to a point where we're paying everybody. All these artists, they're all doing it under the belief of, 'Gosh, this is great getting my art out there.' But we want to be able to pay them. All these artists deserve it. The writers deserve it. We want them to see something for their creativity.
Besides financial stability, what other long-term goals do you have for yourself and Daytrotter?
We want to be able to someday buy a building and convert some of it into a venue and part into a recording studio and an apartment -- a nice little kind of penthouse floor for a band to stay there. Bands would come do a session during the day, play a show there at night and then have a free place to stay -- a really nice, bad-ass hotel situation afterward. Obviously, that costs money, and right now, we don't have any money to do it. Every band we've told about the long-term goal thinks it's the best idea they've ever heard. If we were able to combine all three of those things and have these intimate shows -- maybe two-hundred people max, five bucks at the most, make it all ages and give all the money at the door to the band -- plus give them a free place to stay and a Daytrotter session? In my head, it's like we'd be able to get any band we want. Who's going to turn that down?
You said on the site once that you hoped to turn Daytrotter into a 'more bitchin', indie-rock version' of The Believer. What does that even mean?
I read that thing every month, and I think it's just awesome. Every time I sit down to write something for the site, I try to make it literature, or something resembling literature. I don't really like too many reviews or stories where there's a lot of 'I' in there. But I don't know how you separate a record from your personal experiences. I think that's what literature is -- using prose and making it all flowery and really kind of taking some words to places that they haven't been. I think it's really fun to do that with records. The Believer does stuff like that. It's not over the top. It's not pretentious -- well, maybe sometimes it is.
Speaking of pretentious, do you see the kind of musician-focused, evaluation-free writing done on Daytrotter as more or less valuable than what Pitchfork does?
Obviously, there's a lot of stroking yourself when you write anything. That's one of the things that people love and hate about Pitchfork. I think the writers on there are great writers. I don't think there's anything wrong with Pitchfork. But it's amazing how many of the bands that come in to do a session with us remark about how Pitchfork usually does them less good than anything. You get a 6 rating on Pitchfork, and your album is, like, dead. People use those rankings, and whatever is said on Pitchfork as the be-all- end-all whether a record is worthwhile. But I can't say anything bad about the writing. I kinda like where they've taken it.
So Daytrotter is a kinder, gentler version of Pitchfork, only with exclusive downloads instead of snarky criticism?
When a band shows up on Pitchfork, if they get a good review they sell a lot of records that day. That's great for the band. They can do music for their life. If they sell enough records, they don't have to deliver pizzas anymore when they're not on tour. We want to be a facilitator for something like that.